If you go back to 1955, the life expectancy of a business was 75 years. Today, a large business is expected to exist for about 15 years. Of the Fortune 500 in 1955, 88 per cent of businesses no longer exist.

There’s plenty that has changed in that time, but it’s us – the technology industry – that has driven the pace of change more than any other. Despite this, recent research from Telstra Wholesale, Powering your business through relentless change, shows that we’re still shying away from the pain that comes from being agile and managing disruption ourselves.

In the years I’ve worked with Australian companies, I’ve seen them deal with the same challenges that companies across the world face. But because Australia, in some ways, is an island both literally and figuratively, there may be some circumstances where it takes a bit longer for some disruption from afar to come to Australia. This gives us a huge opportunity to get ahead of those changes, but many businesses still aren’t reacting.

So how do we change the behaviour that’s holding us back?

Change the mindset

A fresh perspective is a powerful thing, but the senior leaders we spoke to in Powering your business through relentless changeshow that we’re being held back by tradition – the way things have always been done.

Conversely, disrupters have a mindset that they’re going to deliver a much better customer experience using a very different business model. They have that mindset and they believe in it and they’re passionate about it, and so they drive hard on it. With that mindset, an amazing amount of work is possible.

Make the most of partners

In Australia, perhaps more than in a much larger country, partnerships are fundamental. It’s a relatively small market given the population size and it has some unique challenges like the breadth of geography and its distance from other major centres.

Because of those factors, I believe that the Australian businesses that succeed are those that become very good at curating capabilities into the country. These companies see the importance of getting the balance between the need to create technology versus curating technology right for the future.  An example is Telstra’s multi-cloud strategy where we are partnering with companies like Amazon and Microsoft to present to our customers a variety of cloud-based capabilities rather than building it ourselves. Each of *Amazon, *Microsoft, *Google and a number of other companies are investing heavily in this technology. What we are doing is working closely with these partners to bring the best that the world has to offer to our customers both locally and globally.

Keep pushing the boundaries

It’s essential to constantly reinvent yourself. A decade or so ago, Telstra’s fixed line business was the cornerstone of our business. In the next five years, nbn will change the state of play dramatically. We have a strong market position and good financial resources, but it’s time we start asking how we take it to the next level. How do we change and lead the market?

So while the current business model is very good, we’re going to place some big bets on technologies that we believe in and disrupt our own model.

Because if we don’t, someone will. And they’ll succeed as a result.



  • As former CEO of Nokia, Stephen Elop has experienced extreme business change, and recognises behaviours which hold companies back. In this article he advocates:
  • Don’t be held back by tradition
  • Deliver a great customer experience
  • Make the most of your partners
  • Keep reinventing yourself